Monday, October 08, 2007

Clutter and Chaos

I went to my mother's this weekend. Also there were my sister, her husband, my niece (5), my nephew (3 weeks), their dog, my brother, his fiance, their dog, my mother, my step-father, and their cat. 7 adults, 2 children, and 3 pets. (Needless to say, Friendster Guy was glad he was not there.)

This, in and of itself, is not generally a problem. We all get along and are fairly small people so don't take up a lot of room. However. What is also in the house is a mess. A huge, twenty years in the making, mess. With a capital M. Stuff everywhere. Clean Sweep levels of stuff. Exascerbated by the fact that my brother and his fiance were evicted from their apartment and decided to save money before their wedding in April by moving back in with Mom. Their stuff is taking up two rooms (I went home a few weeks ago and literally emptied "my" bedroom closest of all the flotsam and jetsom of my youth in order to make room for them. My sister did as well.) In addition, my grandmother sold her snowbird house and dropped a whole bunch of the furniture at my Mom's. But, that does not completely explain the magnitude of the problem.

What does is this: My Mom has an issue with throwing things, specifically things that might have belonged to other people at one point, out. She'll readily admit this. It stems from a time when her father threw out a puzzle she used to do with her grandmother. He didn't know it had sentimental value to her, he just knew it wasn't in good shape. So, in order to not traumatize any of her children, she has never thrown anything out. Things will sit on coffee tables, shelves, mantels, hallway floors, or wherever else they landed - on purpose or accidentally - for years. Literally. This also includes foodstuff. I believe there are spice packets and jello in my Mom's pantry from when I was in high school. No one uses them because they are too old, but no one throws them away either. If something is deemed unnecessary, it doesn't actually leave the house, it simply moves to the basement.

I am absolutely petrified that my parents are going to die and my siblings and I are going to have to remove 13 tons of useless, where the hell did this come from and why is it still here, stuff from the house.

My sister and I just talked on the phone and feel we need to do some sort of intervention. Whether that means taking over the house while my mother is gone as a surprise, or doing it while she is there we don't know. We'll get rid of more if she's gone but we might mistakenly toss something that'll freak her out. It is a massive undertaking. The house has 4 bedrooms, an office, two bathrooms, a craftroom/laundry room (that I "Clean Sweeped" once already with my mother and has gone back to chaos), a toy room that my niece never uses because it is too stuffed, a living room, kitchen, dining room, basement, foyer (that is never used because you can't open the front door, again, because of stuff), and a stairwell/hallway area that is a firehazard and deadly.

The only way to do it right is to empty a room at a time, maybe into the garage, and purge like mad. I don't know how that will happen but it needs to. We're now getting into air quality issues - there is mold on the bathroom ceiling.

It's bad. So bad. I'm sure my mother is overwhelmed. I would be.

Maybe I can start by challenging my mother to a purge. I have been planning to do a 31 things purge, and almost have that many things ready to be donated, but maybe if I tell her I'm doing it this weekend, and we "start" at the same time, and call each other with encouragement, it could happen. Hmm...that might just work.


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MiChal said...

I'll second the Flylady comment. Initially she says to pick an area, set the timer for 10 minutes (and only 10 minutes) and purge/clean/straighten that area for 10 minutes. That's not so terrible. There was also something in "Simple Abundance" -- it's easy to become stymied by all there is to do so just pick a drawer. Clean the drawer. Flylady didn't do it for me but the drawer cleaning did. There is great satisfaction in having SOMETHING clean and straight in the house, even if it's only a bathroom drawer.